Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sat. Gunblogging: The $5000 Gun Vault

"Saturday Gunblogging" posts are posts with which I indulge myself by talking about (usually) the equipment of the shooting sports. These are often topics extensively covered elsewhere in the gun world, but whatever; I like talking about 'em.

So I visited The Other Side of Kim yesterday and read a great post regarding an email from another reader soliciting advice regarding what firearms to buy if one was starting a collection and had $5000 with which to do so. Hmmm. . . my firearms geek interest was piqued. So I asked myself, "Garm, if you were starting from scratch, and had $5000 to build a practical gun collection and were able to get anything you wanted (excluding Class III/NFA as their prices make ownership quite impractical), what exactly would you get?" (I always question myself using long compound sentences.) So I decided to build my own list. . . this has the potential to be a long post. . . My list is built towards fulfilling 4 needs:
1) Self-Defense Carry/Home-Defense,
2) Plinking/Paper-Punching/Target Shooting,
3) Hunting, and to a lesser extent
4) Battle-Rifle/SHTF (s**t-hits-the-fan; basically a collapse of law and order, e.g. post-Katrina... Not too likely, but chance favors a prepared armory.)
Of course, Kim's going to do 2 lists; one for "volume" and one for "quality." Mine is more geared toward the "quality" end of the spectrum. So with that in mind, here's my list, using approximate "street" prices and also like Kim's post, with a running aggregate cost in parentheses. At first glance, $5000 doesn't seem like a lot of money to use when building a firearms collection, but I found that if you're selective and think about the role you need each firearm to fulfill, you can stretch 5 G's surprisingly far. Anyway, here's my list:
1) Springfield Armory Stainless Mil-Spec 1911: $650 ($650)
Self-Defense Carry/Home-Defense/Target/SHTF
Kim's correct: every gun owner should own, or at least seriously consider owning a 1911, and you can't go wrong with an SA-branded model. In my humble opinion, the 1911 chambered in the venerable .45 ACP is the best "general purpose" handgun available today, equally suited for carry (open or CCW), home-defense, combat, etc. They're accurate, battle-proven (many times over) and my God, do they look good. Kim chose a parkarized model, but I prefer the Stainless Steel version. . . they just look better to me. The only thing I'd really want that the Mil-Spec doesn't have is some good night sights, but those aren't that expensive to have installed.

2) Remington 870 Express Synthetic (w/2 barrels): $325 ($975)
If there is any firearm that can fill a huge variety of roles, and defines the role of the firearm as a tool, the synthetic stocked 870 pump shotgun is the one. It's tough, it's cheap, it works forever, and requires very little maintenance. The reason I specified two barrels is because the 870 comes with either a long barrel (26"/28") or short barrel (18"). I'd prefer both, and why not save money by just buying an extra barrel instead of another gun? The long barrel would be for fowling, deer hunting (w/slugs), skeet/trap, etc., with the 18 incher swapped out for home defense duties. Not only that, but a 12 gauge shotgun offers a HUGE variety of shell loadings, from very light shot up to huge rifled slugs, which adds considerably to it's versatility. Oh, and there's a huge (HUGE) amount of after market accessories available. I can't say enough about the 870.

3) Ruger 22/45 Mark III: $275 ($1250)
Everyone needs a .22 pistol. They're fun, cheap to shoot, and offer good training opportunities for both the novice and the experienced shooter. I love Ruger Mark III's, mostly because of the fact that my father taught me to shoot with one, and thus I have a certain nostalgic attraction to the model. When Ruger came out with the "22/45" subset, I was pretty excited, since I'm (obviously) a 1911 fanboy, and the 22/45 approximates the controls and grip angle of a 1911, which makes it a great companion piece for the 1911 shooter, since .22 ammo is really cheap, and can be bought anywhere. If I was going to suggest a "first gun" to the novice shooter, or was going to train a novice shooter, I'd suggest/use a Ruger 22/45 Mark III. . . and I have, many times. Of course, one could save anywhere between $50 and $100 by buying another brand or model, but I'll take the Mark III, thank you very much. Their price/fun/accuracy/training value is outstanding.

OK, we could stop right there and have a decent little arsenal, covering home defense (1911 and 870), plinking/target (all of them), and to lesser extent, hunting (870) and SHTF (1911 and 870), all for less than $1300. But we have $3750 more dollars to play with, so let's get a little more specific in the genres I set above.

4) Kahr CW4043: $500 ($1750)
Self-Defense Carry
As much as I love the 1911, it's a big pistol that is not always suited for carry, especially in a hot environment where CCW is limited due to clothing necessities (like shorts and a polo shirt). That's why the CW4043 is perfect for a "summer carry" piece: It's small, it's thin, it's light, and it comes in a "real caliber" of the street proven .40 S&W. It's not available yet, so that price is optimistic (the MSRP is $533, and I doubt street pricing will be much less). I LOVE Kahr pistols though. . . I don't own one personally, but am very familiar with them. They're small, they pack a punch, they look good, and they're reliable. They're also kinda expensive, but I like 'em enough to make them worth it; besides, the CW line is their inexpensive line.

By the way, Kahr's website is a little funky, so the link above takes you to their front page; you'll have to look up the CW4043 from there.

5) Kel-Tec CNC P3AT: $250 ($2000)
Self-Defense Carry
Sometimes, you just need a really tiny gun, which the P3AT is. It's not really good for shooting very far beyond 3 yards, and it's chambered in .380 ACP (get it? P-3-A-T?), which is marginal for a self-defense round, but it's good enough for the purpose of this weapon: backup and "not-even-notice-it's-there" carry. Seriously, you can put one of these in a pocket and forget about it, it's that small and light. Neither this pistol nor the Kahr above are really that good for plinking; they're small and light, so the recoil's pretty sharp.

6) Ruger 10/22DSP: $200 ($2200)
I chose the 10/22 for no other reason than that they're common, and the DSP model specifically because I think the walnut stock is prettier than the generic hardwood of the lesser models. Really I just needed a .22 rifle to fulfill the same role as the .22 pistol, but for rifles: they're cheap to buy, cheap to shoot, and are great training tools. Plus they're fun to plink with and are decent varmint guns.

7) Savage Model 10GXP3: $500 ($2700)
I'm choosing the Savage to fill the role of dedicated hunting rifle for the same reason as Kim: For the money, there is no other new rifle that matches the quality, accuracy, and aesthetics of the Savage 10. In fact, you'd have to spend a significant amount more money to get more rifle. With the addition of their excellent "Accu-Trigger" system a few years ago, Savage really locked up the market on high-quality, decently-priced rifles. It comes in many calibers, but the .308 Winchester is the most common, and most versatile, of all the middle-range calibers. And the 10GXP3 package comes with scope, so there you go.

8) Ruger GP100 4 inch barrel: $450 ($3150)
Self-Defense Carry/Home-Defense/Target
Wheelguns are just plain cool and classic. I chose this one somewhat grudgingly, since I'm actually more of a fan of the Colt Python (mmmm... python... greatest.pistol.ever.) and the S&W Model 19, but those are not made anymore, and used examples can get way up there in price. That's not to say I don't like the GP100, because I love the GP100; I just love the other two more, with my lust for the Python bordering on the unnatural. A .357 Magnum revolver, and especially the GP100, is one versatile handgun. You can load 'em up with light .38 Special loads and plink all day or put in some full-house loads and have a blast, literally. Also, a wheelgun in this chambering is a great woods gun as well as a great bedside home-defense gun. . . they're simple, powerful, and, especially in the case of the GP100, super-reliable. Plus, they make a good choice to arm someone "on the fly," which makes it a great companion to the. . .

9) Marlin Model 1894C: $400 ($3550)
Very few things are as fun, as classic, or as reliable as an old-fashioned lever-action rifle. They evoke memories of all those great cowboy movies and they're true American classics. Marlin (since Winchester closed it's doors this year) offers the best variety of styles and calibers right now, and I'm choosing the 1894C because it's chambered in the .357 Magnum pistol round, which, with the added velocity of the 18.5" barrel, is one hell of a good round for medium sized game. It's light, it's handy, it's easy to learn, and, especially when combined with the GP100 above, makes a great rifle with which to arm someone in case of a SHTF situation, or any other situation where you might need to arm another person. After all, a long gun/handgun combo in the same caliber makes a lot of sense to me. Oh, and it'll shoot .38 Special too, which makes it LOADS of fun for plinking.

10) Springfield Armory SOCOM II: $1450...maybe ($5000)
SHTF/Hunting (kinda)/Target (kinda)/Male Reproductive Organ Enlarger (definitly)
OK, this is where Kim and I differ the most. He has a predilection for milsurp rifles, which I completely understand since I like 'em too, and his first list is geared toward quantity instead of quality. . . not that any of his choices are crappy guns, since none are; we just have different preferences. The reasons I chose the SOCOM II are 4-fold: it's chambered in a great, fight-ending battle/hunting caliber (7.62 NATO/.308 Win.), it's short and handy (though heavy), it's tough (based on the battle-proven WWII M-1 Garand and the M14, which is still used by our troops today), and it's a very, very versatile rifle. It's meant to be used as a defensive/offensive weapon for home-defense and SHTF, or in the case of the police/military, as a CQB and medium-range rifle. Not to mention that it would make a wonderful brush gun, heavy-cover hunting rifle, or ranch gun, although it's a little expensive if you want to use it for just those roles. . . but remember, I'm shooting (no pun intended) for choosing a rifle that fills many roles here. It's basically the latest version of said Garand, geared toward modern versatility, what with it's rails, shorter barrel, and synthetic stock. In a SHTF situation (or in a pinch, a hunting situation) it can be used to rapidly engage targets out to about 300-400 yards with iron sights or a scope. Yeah, you can buy about 8 really nice SKS's or 4 decent AK's (both great, reliable battle rifles) for what one of these uberguns cost, but in my view, you sacrifice range, accuracy, the modular benefits of the Cluster Rail (lights and lasers and scopes, oh my!), and the wonderful .308 Win. cartridge. Which, by the way, is widely available across the country, while the supply of 7.62x39mm cartridge the SKS/AK variants use is largely dependent on foreign sources. Oh, and that $1450.00 figure? That's if you're lucky. . . SOCOM's are expensive and in high demand right now, which is interesting, given that it has an admittedly bad cost-to-usefulness ratio. But I still really, really want one.
So there it is: what my $5000 worth of guns would be, were I to buy them all at once. Not that that is actually going to happen, but it'd be fun if it did. I think I filled the criteria I set for myself quite well. Unless you're going to Africa or Alaska anytime soon, this collection of 10 guns will cover about 90% of all needs, with plenty of overlap. And for all you know, I may already have anywhere between none and all of those guns already. . .

PS-If you made it all the way through that, you are at least a Level 1 Gun Geek. . . The sad thing is the fact that I could have gone on a LOT longer about all of them . . .

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